8/8/2019 Chiron and the Centaurs
Chiron and the Centaurs
Sue Tompkins and Melanie Reinhart
Discovery and Astronomy:
Chiron was discovered by Charles T. Kowal on November 1st 1977 (1) at about 10am in Pasadena.
When discovered it didn't fit into existing categories of celestial objects and for this reason has beenre-classified several times having been defined variously as an asteroid, a comet, and a 'planetoid'.
Indeed, it still holds 'dual classification' as comet 95P and Minor Planet 2060. Most of the time it is
positioned between Saturn and Uranus but as a body that crosses the orbits of other bodies, it can at
times be closer in than Saturn, and at others, further out than Uranus.
It has a cometary tail which can reach 300,000km in length and which appears to switch on and off
- at times the tail can be seen, at others not. Once Chiron was discovered, its appearance was noted
on photographic plates dating back as far as the late 1800s. It had been there all along, but not been
Likewise, in the horoscope, Chiron symbolises that which is 'hidden' by virtue of being so obviouswe don't actually see it. Very small, only 180km in diameter, Chiron can also describe those things
that, being so small, may seem insignificant, but in actuality are powerful. In keeping with it's
continual re-classification as a celestial body, Chiron's meaning in the horoscope resists
categorisation and defies description.
The Kuiper Belt:
The year 1992 saw the discovery of the Kuiper Belt, a large zone of matter surrounding the Solar
System, comprising possibly billions of small celestial objects currently being discovered and
classified. Named after the Dutch astronomer Gerald Kuiper (1905-1973) who predicted its
existence, the Kuiper Belt has yielded several new astronomical categories including the 'Centaurs'.
Some of the larger Kuiper belt objects (KBO's) or trans-Neptunians such as Quaoar, Sedna, Ixion
and Xena may prove to be of more than passing astrological interest but so far, it is the Centaurs
that have particularly caught the attention of astrologers'. More than twenty have been discovered,
although only about twelve have been named.(2)
Centaurs are 'born' when objects are drawn in to the Solar System from the icy wastes of space in
the region around Pluto, pulled in by the gravitational field of Neptune. In Greek mythology, the
Centaurs were a tribe of unruly creatures who were half horse, half human; only a few have names
and an individual story line.
Similarly, while there may be countless Centaurs awaiting discovery in the depths of the Kuiper
Belt, only a few have been named, thus demonstrating a neat parallel with the mythology. Chironwill probably remain the most well known, the 'chief centaur' just as Ceres is the 'queen of the
asteroids'(3) In mythology, it is mainly Chiron, Pholus and Nessus who have a substantial story
line, and so far these are the three Centaurs proving to be the most useful in astrological terms.
Astrologers and astronomers co-operated in the naming process for several of the Centaurs and this
is the first time in recorded history that this divide has been bridged. This rapprochement reflects
Centaur themes: the bringing together of the scientific and the intuitive, the rational and
inspirational, just as the half-horse, half-human image of the centaur brings together disparate
opposites, and challenges us to integrate that which seems alien(4).
The Centaurs then, are Minor Planets, which have some distinguishing features. They cross over the
orbital paths of one or more other bodies between Jupiter and Pluto, and have very elliptical orbits.
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This means that they will seem to speed through some signs, astrologically, as they whiz round the
narrower part of the ellipse while taking much longer to transit the signs on the long sides in-
between these points. Thus Chiron spends about 8 years in Pisces and Aries and only about 2 in
Virgo and Libra. To complete one complete orbit Chiron takes about 50 years, Pholus about 90
years, and Nessus 124 years.
These elliptical orbits will mean a big difference in the distance from the Sun at different parts of
the orbit. For example, Chiron's mean distance from the Sun is 13.73 AU(5). At perihelion it is8.453 AU, while at aphelion it is 18.899AU. Its period of axial rotation is 5.9 hours, and its orbital
inclination to the ecliptic is a steep 7 degrees.
Symbolism of discovery:
Chiron's discovery at this pivotal time in our history reflects a process of innovation and change by
'quantum leap' - as well as technological changes - potentially changes of consciousness, belief,
behaviour and life-style. In this sense Chiron bridges the realms of Uranus (radical change,
revolution and the overturning of old collective structures) and Saturn (lord of manifestation and
preserver of existing forms). By weaving both impulses into a higher synthesis, more uniquely
personal than either planet, Chiron's process may help us individuate beyond the various pressuresof the collective to which we are all subject. Commitment to the healing of self, others and our
environment is the price this minor planet seems to be asking us to pay.
In the Greek myth, Chiron is accidentally hit by an arrow which had been dipped in the poisonous
blood of the Hydra and the theme of poisoning is an interesting one around Chiron and the
Centaurs. They have been discovered during a period of time when the true extent of the toxic
devastation of the environment is coming to light. Nuclear waste, chemical waste and pollutants,
industrial accidents and toxic spills of one kind or another are very often in the news. We are daily
flooded with toxic material - in our water, in the air we breathe, in the dental materials most of us
have in our mouths. Arguably, it is the rings of Saturn that symbolically protects the immune
system and Chiron penetrating through Saturn's orbit may be a co-significator for some of thediseases of immune deficiency that have proliferated over the last few decades.
The Pluto Connection:
Chiron may have a role in enabling us to integrate the powerful experiences signified by the outer
planets, Uranus, Neptune and especially Pluto, which is in fact the largest inhabitant of the Kuiper
Disk, and formerly the only 'orbit-crossing' planet. Certainly, it seems to act as an emissary, agent
or escapee of Pluto and can, to some extent, be interpreted similarly to a kind of smaller, bite sized
version of that planet.
The Centaurs seem to preside over rites of passage and processes of purification that accompany
spiritual development. Their discovery may enable consciousness and awareness to be brought intoareas of the soul previously inaccessible except perhaps to hermits, mystics and shamans and others
dedicated to the inner journey.
Chiron is often associated with the archetypal theme of the Wounded Healer. He was the son of
Kronos or Chronus (Saturn) and a sea-nymph called Philyra. Because both parents were in their
horse form when he was conceived, Chiron emerged as a centaur; half horse and half human. When
she saw him, Philyra was so horrified that she prayed to be turned into anything other than what she
was - the mother of a monster. Chiron was abandoned and then rescued by a shepherd who took
him to the Sun god Apollo.
Chiron's mother Philyra demonstrates the primary state of mind that creates our suffering - the
inability to accept things as they are, instead to react in a rejecting and negative way. The
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astronomy is reflected in the mythology, in that Chiron is taken to Apollo, and fostered by the Sun
god. In their elliptical orbits, Chiron and the Centaurs appear to be tending inwards to the Sun like
Chiron taken to Apollo. This detail also reminds us that our suffering and our compulsions need to
be brought into the light of compassionate awareness, for Apollo was the god of healing, music and
prophecy and other skills.
In the episode which earned Chiron the title of "Wounded Healer", Hercules, one of his students,
accidentally wounded him. Because Chiron was a demi-god, he could not die, but neither could heheal himself, as the wound was poisoned. Chiron in astrology often represents that which we can do
for others, but we cannot do for ourselves. After existing in agony for a long time, trying
unsuccessfully to heal himself, Chiron changed places with Prometheus, who was chained to a rock
as a punishment for tricking Zeus (Jupiter).
Thus both Chiron and Prometheus were released from their suffering. Chiron was finally able to die
and was immortalised in the constellation of Centaurus, which flanks the Southern Cross. This is a
powerful description of the process whereby our suffering is resolved - by full empathy and
acceptance of it and/or empathy with the suffering of another.
Chiron and Exile:
In keeping with the mythology, a theme of 'exile' is often felt around Chiron. Where we find Chiron
in the horoscope, we may feel different, not understood and outside of life in some way. In this
respect, Chiron seems to operate like a weak version of Uranus. Whereas we can associate Uranus
with rebellion and revolution and perhaps the awakening of rebellious feelings in others, with
Chiron the experience is more that of sitting outside the herd.
Chiron, death and transition:
Matters pertaining to death in the horoscope are of course signified by Saturn, Pluto, the 8th house
and Scorpio but Chiron undoubtedly joins this team of significators. Themes like voluntaryeuthanasia, assisted suicide, living Wills, and the rights of the dying seem to be specifically
symbolised by Chiron, whose role seems to come under the umbrella of the conscious acceptance of
death. Such acceptance can play an important part in the process of healing. By transit, Chiron can
signify the deaths of significant others in our lives, although there will always also be other
indicators pointing the same way. It is often active at times of illness too, when we may be forced to
face the fact that we are mortal.
In the mythology, Chiron was accidently wounded by Hercules and Chiron often seems to be at
work when people get caught up in some kind of larger crossfire. For instance, it is often prominent
in the charts of major disasters, especially when in opposition to Saturn, for some reason.
Chiron and Disability:
The American astrologer Kim Gallagher Rogers has noted how similar the glyph for Chiron is to
the symbol for wheelchair access(6). She points out that the wheelchair disability symbol was
adopted in 1968 when Chiron was at 0 degrees of Aries, a potent point which often signifies the
birth of something. Chiron, in common with Pluto, certainly seems to be a co-significator of at least
some forms of disability and it's discovery 'coincided' with the time when disability was finally
becoming something that could start be acknowledged and discussed. The Campaign for equal
rights for people with disabilities was at a height in 1977 in the US, pre-emptied by Edward Roberts
who was the first person with a severe disability to be a student living on campus.
In the same way that the whole subject of death was largely a matter of denial in the West until the1970's, so were all matters pertaining to disability. The vast majority of the American public for
instance, never knew that President Roosevelt, who was in power from 1933 to his death in 1945
was totally paralysed from the waist down (due either to polio or Guillain-Barre syndrome which he
8/8/2019 Chiron and the Centaurs
8/8/2019 Chiron and the Centaurs
The best way to understand Chiron in your horoscope is to track its transits over time, particularly
the main 'hard' aspects: conjunction, square and opposition.
Some 'classic' Chiron themes
In some horoscopes, putting Chiron in will have the effect of highlighting a pattern, creating a new
emphasis or serving to explain something really prominent about a person not otherwise reflected in
the chart. Studying it often makes for an 'aha' effect, where suddenly things click into place. Peoplewho cannot relate to Chiron fall into one of two categories: there are those who are so busy
blocking out the deeper dimensions of their soul that they cannot resonate with Chiron, out of fear.
Then there are those who are living so close to the archetype that they cannot see it!
There can be an obvious 'unhealable wound' depicted by Chiron's placement, a situation that we
cannot escape from although we may try to and which provides grist to the mill of our 'soul-work'
for many years. Just as in the myth, however, there is potential resolution and release. Very often
this revolves around accepting the unacceptable, the unfair, the incomprehensible; it may mean
stopping trying to figure things out and fix them, but instead to simply allow ourselves to be with
Chiron can also depict a brilliance, something which stands out and defines a person. It can show
where we behave or feel like an outsider, a maverick or wanderer, where we resist being tied down,
where the constraints of society weigh heavily. There is a wildness, a freshness, a volatility of
energy, a certain instability where we can go to extremes. It can also be like 'blind spot' where
something is obvious to everyone but ourselves. Psychologically, it could be said that Chiron
symbolises part of us that has been split off. It has become dissociated because of trauma or
suffering, or simply through a lack of understanding or language to process an experience. Transits
act like the classic shamanic process of 'soul retrieval' where that which has been outcast, seeks to
Pholus - the lid comes off
Pholus was discovered in 1992 , and its process seems to be one where a small event sets off a chainreaction, either inwardly or externally, in terms of consequences. In the Greek mythology, Pholus
was the keeper of the sacred jar of wine of Dionysus. Dionysus was the god of ecstasy; whose riteswere often characterised by drunkenness and chaos, and sometimes they culminated in violence.
Similarly Pholus events often involve things getting out of control. The way to deal with Pholus is to
take only essential actions until the floods subside and things settle down. The jar of Pholus was notsupposed to be opened for four generations, and so the astrological Pholus often highlights the
releasing of ancestral processes, whether these are known or unknown to us. In some way, bearingwitness to the past can be important as we are called upon to clarify our own ancestral lineage.
Sometimes there are specific things to do, like forgiveness work, or putting flowers on a grave. But
often it is simply to inwardly acknowledge the suffering of those who went before us, and torecognise the tragedy of it.
Nessus - the buck stops here.
The 3rd Centaur to be discovered is one that seems to address issues to do with the abuse of power,